What are you reading? Digital bookmobile hits the road in Cincinnati to expose readers to ebooks

CINCINNATI - A digital bookmobile will roll into Cincinnati this week to raise awareness about the growing collection of ebooks and audio books that can be downloaded from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Anyone with a Cincinnati library card can borrow e-books and audio books and enjoy them either on a computer or popular models of e-readers, tablets, or smartphones. The digital bookmobile will be at:

  • Bond Hill Branch library on Tuesday, July 30 from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Fountain Square on Wednesday, July 31 from 10 am to 4 pm.

Interactive learning stations aboard the 74-foot tractor-trailer allow you to search the library’s digital media collection and sample e-books, audiobooks, music and video. In the bookmobile’s gadget gallery, you can see what it’s like to read e-books on different devices. Compare the reading experience on a Kindle, iPod touch, Android tablet, NOOK, Sony Reader, Blackberry and other portable devices compatible with the Library’s download service.

If you already own a smartphone, tablet, or ereader, you can learn how to download Library ebooks to your specific model.

Everyone can register for a chance to win an ereader and gets a set of ear buds (while supplies last). 

On the road

The digital bookmobile is stopping in Cincinnati and Bond Hill as part of a nationwide tour conducted by OverDrive, the company that provides digital media distribution services for more than 22,000 libraries, retailers, and schools worldwide.

Renee San Jose, marketing and events manager for OverDrive, has been with the tour since it started in 2008. She said at the first bookmobile, visitors simply wanted to know what an ereader was. Now, many people have e-readers and want to learn how to borrow ebooks for free from the library.

Although the ebook downloading process has been complicated by the diversity of devices and various restrictions of book publishers, San Jose said the downloading process has become simpler.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about all the options available through the Library,” agreed Kim Fender, The Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director for the Public Library. “Ebooks are convenient and can be downloaded from home and returned automatically, making it impossible to accrue fines.”

Fender says the Library has offered ebooks for several years, but has noticed changes in attitudes toward ereading in recent years.

“We do a cardholder survey every year,” she said. “One thing we’ve seen is that the number of people who have gotten a library card simply so they can download ebooks is growing. The number of people who say they will never use an ereader is shrinking.”

A new chapter for readers, authors

Although some library cardholders have become heavy users of downloading services, many people in Cincinnati are still unaware that they can borrow -books from the library—all day, every day, without leaving home.

Until recently, some book publishers have been reluctant to sell or license ebooks to public libraries. The rapidly rising acceptance of ebooks has forced publishers of printed books to figure out ways to replace shrinking revenues. Some have reacted by charging libraries much higher fees for ebooks or requiring them to re-license the content every year.

Authors, too, have voiced concerns that e-book lending will affect their incomes. Through their “Authors for Library Ebooks” initiative, the American Library Association is asking them to stand with libraries in their quest for equitable access to e-books. Libraries support authors by hosting book signings, respecting copyright laws, and encouraging everyone to read more books.

In a New York Times op-ed, New York Public Library president Anthony Marx wrote, “We have every interest in seeing that publishers remain sustainable enterprises and that authors are paid fairly for their work. But those economic imperatives must be considered alongside the role of libraries in a democratic society. The challenge is to ensure that the information revolution provides more, not less, access for the public.”

Libraries evolve

Fender pointed out libraries are continually adapting to changes in how information is disseminated. In the 1900s, they loaned Viewmaster-type stereoscopic cards and viewers. Since then, libraries have circulated slides, filmstrips, cassette tapes, LPs, CDs, and DVDs.

Borrowing an ebook from the library is actually similar to borrowing a physical book, said Fender.

“We buy it and you can borrow it from us and then return it.”

The collection of ebooks at the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County includes a growing assortment of fiction and non-fiction titles for children, teens, and adults. Library users can suggest titles to be added to the collection.

Through the library’s Overdrive service, you can borrow up to 20 books at a time and choose whether you want to keep the book for seven, 14, or 21 days. At the end of the lending period, the titles automatically expire and are returned to the digital collection. Because the Library only purchases a certain number of licenses for each e-book, there may be a waiting list to check out popular titles.

San Jose of OverDrive encourages Cincinnati residents to stop by the bookmobile, try out the different ereading formats, and meet OverDrive reps and Cincinnati librarians who can help you get started with the service that is right for you.

If you can’t visit the digital bookmobile, Fender said, librarians are always willing to answer your questions.

“Bring your ereader or tablet, and we’ll help you get up and learn how to use it,” says Fender. “Once you get it set up, it’s actually very easy to download ebooks from the library.”  She says the mobile app is particularly easy to use.

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